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Diabetes during Pregnancy: Gestational Diabetes

A type of diabetes developing during pregnancies is called gestational diabetes. During the pregnancy, there is increased requirement of insulin to manage the blood sugar levels. When the body is unable to meet these requirements of insulin levels, women in their later stages of pregnancy develop gestational diabetes.

In most of the cases, once the baby is born, gestational diabetes goes away. However, some women continue to have higher levels of blood glucose. Gestational diabetes might often develop into type 2 diabetes.

Treating gestational diabetes could help both the mother and the baby to stay healthy. One can protect oneself and the baby by taking appropriate action immediately by managing the levels of blood glucose levels.

The Indian Scenario

The prevalence of this condition varies from 3.8% to 21% in various parts of  India. Southern India has a higher incidence and prevalence, and prevalence is more in urban areas in comparison to rural regions.

It is widely known that Asian women, particularly ethnic Indians are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, which may subsequently develop into type 2 diabetes.

Causes and risk factors

Causes

Gestational diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin in the required amounts during pregnancy. Insulin helps the body to utilise glucose for energy and it manages the levels of blood sugar in the body.

During the phase of pregnancy, the body produces several kinds of hormones and undergoes lot of other changes like gaining weight. Such changes make the body’s cells utilise insulin less effectively, leading to a condition called insulin resistance. When the pancreas isn’t able to make enough insulin, one will have gestational diabetes.

Diabetes during Pregnancy: Gestational Diabetes

Risk Factors

Women are at risk of getting gestational diabetes when

  • One has a family history of diabetes
  • One had gestational diabetes earlier
  • One has prediabetes
  • One was overweight before the pregnancy
  • One suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 

Symptoms and signs

In most women, there may not be any obvious symptoms because of gestational diabetes.

When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Dry mouth with increased thirst.
  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Tiredness.
  • Repeated infections, such as thrush (a yeast infection)
  • Blurred vision.

Diagnosis

WHO recommends a 2-hour 75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Usually, the screening for gestational diabetes is carried out between the 24th week to 28 weeks of gestation in scenarios when one is not at a greater risk based on their symptoms.  When the level of blood sugar is 140 mg/dL or higher, one is fasted for few hours and again tested. Follow-up tests may be carried out when there is a normal result in cases where one is at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes to ensure one doesn’t have it around the 32nd to 44th week of gestation.

Diabetes during Pregnancy: Gestational Diabetes

Treatment and prevention

Treatment

Gestational diabetes treatment involves maintaining the blood sugar levels in a targeted zone.

The doctor will assist you in defining and advice on ways to achieve these targets by methods such as:

  • Following a healthy diet. Eat more of grains, vegetables and fruits
  • Physical activity for 30 minutes daily
  • Insulin or other medication

Consult you doctor for all these including the physical activity, as certain activities can put much pressure on the baby and might affect the blood flow to the baby.

 Lowering the chances of gestational diabetes

Before planning for a pregnancy, one can try the following to lower the risk of gestational diabetes:

  • Try to lose weight,
  • Increase physical activities before the pregnancy

These steps ensure optimal insulin utilisation and normal glucose level. During the pregnancy, one should not try to lose weight.

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Complications affecting the baby

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can cause problems for the baby too by

  • Being born with a larger than normal body
  • The baby may be born with jaundice
  • Endanger the life before or after birth.
  • The baby may grow up to be obese with type 2 diabetes.

 

Consult a top Gynaecologist

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References

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  • Detection and care of women with gestational diabetes mellitus from early weeks of pregnancy results in birth weight of newborn babies appropriate for gestational age. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2008;80(2):199-202.
  • High prevalence of gestational diabetes in women from ethnic minority groups. Diabet Med. 1992;9(9):820-5.
  • Prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus in South India (Tamil Nadu)–a community based study.J Assoc Physicians India. 2008 May; 56():329-33.
  • Pregnancy and diabetes scenario around the world: India. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104(Suppl 1):S35-8.
  • What I need to know about Gestational Diabetes, NIH Publication No. 13–5129 August 2013

 

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